Nevada New Voices clears Senate committee just under the wire

NEVADA—Student journalists in Nevada could soon see their right to a free press codified into state law if New Voices legislation maintains momentum through the state legislature.

Framed as a boost to civics education, Senate Bill 420 aims to bring student journalists under the Tinker v. Des Moines standard, which gives fortified First Amendment protections to student press. The bill received a positive reception at its first hearing last Thursday in the Nevada Senate Education Committee and was voted to pass through to the full Senate, though with three dissenting votes.

Bill proponent Patrick File, a media law professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, said SB 420 now contains amendments that bring it up to standards set by other New Voices legislation, including liability protection for school districts and advisers.

SB 420 came in just before the deadline for introducing new legislation expired. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, a first-term Democrat and attorney from Las Vegas.

Proponents are considering whether “student media” should be broadened to include other student-led expression like creating pamphlets or or media outlets besides newspapers.

“The Tinker standard should apply to all of that speech,” File said. “We need to make sure we would be clarifying how this policy would interact with existing policies as it relates to other student organizations that publish things.”

SB 420 has not been scheduled for another appearance, but File said he’s confident the bill in its current form should be able to make it through the state legislature.

SPLC staff writer James Hoyt can be reached by email or (202) 478-1926.

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